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Indonesia braces itself for a third wave: Jakarta Post

Straits Times - September 9, 2021

Jakarta Post editorial – With daily new cases now back to single-digit numbers, the national bed occupancy rate decreasing to below 30 per cent and the national positivity rate to below 5 per cent for the first time in months on Tuesday (Sept 7), we can say with confidence that the Delta-triggered second wave that crippled the nation in July is easing.

The government may have committed a few serious blunders before Delta, but the strict emergency public activities restriction (PPKM Darurat) implemented during the height of the second wave and the following multitiered PPKM measures have certainly helped the country weather the onslaught of the ruthless Covid-19 variant.

We applaud the government for taking the necessary steps to control the storm unleashed by Delta, which remains the most concerning variant so far.

We believe critics made their points clear before and during the crisis, and we hope the government is willing to make amends with regard to its approach to the pandemic.

Now that the pandemic is relatively back under control, giving the nation more breathing space and an opportunity to reopen the economy, we are again obliged to remind the government of not repeating its past mistakes.

A third wave of infection is a real threat that should be taken seriously. The World Health Organisation recently classified the B1621 variant of the coronavirus, also known as variant Mu, as a variant of interest (VOI), in addition to the existing VOIs such as Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda.

The variant was first detected in Columbia in January this year and has spread to 40 countries since then.

While Delta is still considered the most dangerous due to its transmissibility, the Mu variant has alarmed health authorities worldwide following reports that it has mutations, suggesting that it could evade the resistance created by vaccination or infection.

The Health Ministry has said there was no evidence that the Mu variant has been detected in the country, based on whole-genome sequencing on Sept 6.

But given the large population of Indonesia and our limited capacity to conduct genomic testing, we should stick to the old adage that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The government, therefore, must not lower its guard as we go through the next stages of the pandemic, with the new virus variants still lurking out there, waiting to strike when we are most vulnerable.

If anything, the Delta variant remains a threat as we struggle to inoculate the population and as the vaccine's protection wears off.

We may have to accept the reality that we may have to live side by side with Covid-19 to survive the pandemic, but this is by no means an excuse to let the virus attack the population in a cruel attempt to reach herd immunity through natural selection.

We cannot afford to have another wave of infections crippling us as a society and bringing nothing but senseless carnage.

We have learned our lesson; we can do better. A third wave is coming, sooner or later. We should brace for it.

[The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.]

The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/indonesia-braces-for-a-third-wave-jakarta-pos